New Zealand’s retail and hospitality markets are increasingly influenced by international counterparts, and larger markets than our own often dictate trends for shop and restaurant designs here. Yet New Zealand design can offer new and innovative ways for local operators to target our consumer in a way that also embraces our unique market.
The in-store experience is becoming one of the most important aspects of brick and mortar retail as shops battle to enhance the appeal of their offerings. As online shopping threatens physical stores, the customer experience is becoming a primary driver of store success in an increasingly tough and crowded market. As those businesses who fail to embrace this new reality close down, their places are now often taken by food and beverage offers who also value excellent standards of customer service and experiences.
The experts at Studio Gascoigne work from an interior design and retail architecture hub in Auckland to service national and international clientele. They’re known for designing some of our biggest retail brands as well as some of the of the most memorable retail and hospitality spaces in New Zealand.
The team specialise in everything that brings a retail concept to life – including design, hospitality, architecture, retail consulting, branding and lighting design.
An international influence
Studio Gascoigne director and founder Mark Gascoigne is a registered architect with over 30 years of hands-on experience. With both national and international design experience behind him, Gascoigne is selective in how he uses inspiration from abroad in his own designs.
Gascoigne says that keeping abreast of international retail concepts has always been very important for his practice.
“I travel overseas quite regularly to look at new retail and food and beverage concepts, either with or without my clients, and attend trade fairs or conferences in Europe or the US in order to see the latest trends. These days it is much easier to keep in touch because so much is published on the net that we are constantly being bombarded with the latest retail ideas anyway.”
He acknowledges that as overseas markets grow and incorporate more into their offerings, New Zealanders expect the same in our market.
“More than ever before, New Zealand shoppers and diners are expecting international standards of design, convenience and service here, as they themselves are also very aware of what’s happening overseas. You can see the excitement in the market here when overseas retail chains such as Tiffany and Zara open in New Zealand and have queues forming around the block just to get in. This is nothing new – when KFC opened in their first New Zealand branch in 1971 the queue went around the building three times!”
Despite international influences affecting the way local operators are choosing to have their stores designed, Gascoigne warns it is just important to cater to the market you’re in – not the market you want to imitate.
“We regularly have clients arriving at our offices with photos of stores and restaurants they have seen overseas or on the net, and ask us to replicate these here in New Zealand. This doesn’t always work as New Zealand retail customers’ shopping or dining habits can often be quite different to those in places like London or New York. But that’s not to say we should accept anything less in terms of quality of design or experience.”
Made to order
Understanding and catering to your specific demographic is a very important part of successful marketing and retailing. Just as important is understanding how your restaurant and shop fit-outs can help to further express a particular brand. Gascoigne acknowledges that although it is tempting to copy successful overseas designs, carefully tailoring a new restaurant or store to our market is a proven way to maximise revenue.
“Simply adopting an overseas trend – or whole brand- just because a client likes the look of it will not guarantee success here. We have recently seen some very prominent overseas brands run into difficulties adjusting to the New Zealand market and this is why we try to always tailor even international brands to suit how we shop or dine. Similarly, we often modify New Zealand brands to suit overseas markets and we are currently working on a number of New Zealand brands for a roll-out in China.”
Studio Gascoigne and its team have completed over 2,300 projects, from smaller shops to entire malls. The team’s commitment to perfection has seen the studio win more than 170 awards for architecture, retail design, hospitality and interiors in New Zealand and Australia.
Gascoigne, who has overseen most of the projects himself, says trying to pick a favourite fit-out is like choosing a favourite child. Most of the fit-outs designed by the team are unique – no two fit-outs are quite the same. The teams devotion to creating one-of-a-kind designs boils down to the passion they all share for their craft.
“Design is all about passion. Just about every designer gets into the business because they are passionate about design and driven by the process of creating something. Design is an applied art, not a fine art, so our design solutions also have to reflect our clients’ customers aspirations, not just our own.”
Gascoigne’s team consists of registered architects, interior designers, technicians and support staff who possess a wide and complementary range of skills with both international and local experience. The combined experience and passion that the team holds gives Gascoigne confidence in its ability to create fit-outs that are not only carefully thought out but also impressively executed and designed.
“I can always see the excitement in our team when faced with the challenge of creating a whole new retail or food and beverage environment. This is what drives us. But it is also difficult, and requires quite a lot of energy, to keep moving forward in the face of a rapidly changing market. I find this is a bit like the music industry, where a performer may have a hit song and then face the challenge with coming up something even better, or being accused of being a one-hit wonder!”
In today’s digital world, more and more customers are turning to online sources for their shopping. This, of course, is leading to less and less footfall into physical retail stores while driving a move to a greater number and variety of dining options as former retail spaces are back-filled. Creating a space which stands out and connects with consumers in as many ways as possible can be the difference between a space that is memorable and one that is instantly forgettable.
“Having an interior in which customers want to pose for selfies to share on social media is now of major importance. This is a much overlooked form of promotion,” says Gascoigne.
The Trelise Cooper Wellington flagship store, designed by Studio Gascoigne, won the Fashion + Health: Apparel division award for the 2017 Retail Excellence Design Awards. The store itself is a representation of the Trelise aesthetic yet completely different to the brand’s other flagships. Gascoigne says the design is one of his recent favorites.
“It was a very interesting and challenging one for us in that we got to work closely with Trelise and her team to interpret her own design style through a new retail environment. Working with fashion designers can be challenging as some ask for a completely neutral fit-out, with the intention of this acting as a blank canvas on which to show their changing collections. But this can lead to an interior which simply lacks personality and does not stand out as a result.”
Gascoigne stresses the importance that a design should be fluid and adaptable to suit different products or collections a retailer may stock, but also reflect the target demographic’s aspirations.
“Trelise is very aware of her customer’s experiences and comfort when in store, particularly around the fitting room space. This is often the area that clinches the deal between buying or not buying. This approach was great for us in that many fashion retailers really don’t understand the dynamics of how customers think and act in a retail space. With Trelise we were also able to bring some of some of her own style and colours into the store interior, particularly her signature baby-doll pink ceiling and adding a custom-made carpet featuring one of her own patterns to the fitting room area.”
A unique outlook
Working closely with clients is how Studio Gascoigne creates fit-outs individual to a brand and customer. While also drawing from both national and a wider global inspiration, the team can guide clients toward understanding and fitting in with market trends.
“I often get asked, ‘What are the upcoming trends in retail and food?’ and those asking the question expect a finite answer, such as the use of certain colour or at a design particular style. This misses the point, I think: the important issues for us are much more to do with what each individual shopper or diner expects from a brand now. They search out businesses which cater specifically for them. The customer’s first experience of a space frequently determines whether they want to engage with the brand and if it seems relevant to them. It’s how customers relate to the brand which is incredibly important, rather than if it uses certain design cues. This is what is now required to attract and retain the interest of the public in order to achieve a profitable business. That’s ultimately why clients hire us!”
Gascoigne is heavily against ‘cookie cutting’ an interior fit-out, meaning no two spaces will be identical. Yet, in saying that, he expects some trends to make an appearance as international influences roll into the new year.
“I expect to see a return to more ‘real’ and tactile materials that enhance the ‘feel’ of a space, along with technological aids for shopping to offer each customer their own individualised communication with a brand. By that I meant that brands have to communicate well but listen even better. In the face of Amazon’s arrival in our region, the whole market here will have to be on top of their game”
With 32 years of experience and an impressive list of clients, the studio is well set to pull off any design challenge in even in the current changing market.
“If we can anticipate and foster better customer experiences in real environments, as well as before and after the physical store experience, then we are more likely to have a successful connection with a potential long-term customer,” Gascoigne says. “The colour or features within the store will follow suit. It is very easy to just mimic an established design but, like fashion design and itself, it is much harder to create something relevant, but still different. This is what will stand out in a crowded market and really resonate with customers with constantly decreasing attention spans. This is the challenge to customer-facing business success today, and what drives us.”
For more information visit www.studiogascoigne.com